Herring introduces legislation to outlaw 'Spice'
Legislation that would outlaw the use and sale of synthetic marijuana, a drug commonly referred to as K2 or "Spice," has been filed for the 2011 Virginia General Assembly session by state Sen. Mark R. Herring (D-Loudoun), according to a statement Monday by Herring's office.
The proposed bill would create penalties for possession, sale, or distribution of the drug, establishing guidelines that are largely in accord with the provisions for marijuana use and possession, the statement said.
K2, produced in China and Korea, is made with a combination of herbs and spices that are sprayed with a synthetic compound similar to THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, according to police. K2, which has been sold since 2006 for about $30 to $40 per three-gram bag, can be purchased legally in Virginia and is currently sold as an incense product at local convenience stores, authorities said.
The effects of K2 are often touted as being similar to marijuana -- sleepiness, relaxation, lowered blood pressure -- but many users report the opposite, according to the American Association of Poison Control Centers. K2 often causes a racing heartbeat, anxiety, elevated blood pressure and nausea, the association said.
Police have reported that at higher doses, the drug can cause hallucinations, elevated heart rate, seizures, and unconsciousness or coma.
"The fact that these dangerous substances are legal in Virginia is unacceptable," Herring said in a statement. "The effects of synthetic marijuana are extremely harmful to those who use it. It is clear that usage of this gateway drug is on the rise among the youth in our community and in Virginia, and we need to confront this serious issue head on."
Michelle White, President of the Virginia Drug Court Association, said that many drug courts are observing a significant increase in the number of cases involving synthetic marijuana -- particularly among youth enrolled in juvenile drug courts, "because the substance is not detected on a marijuana drug screen and remains readily and legally accessible," she said.
Leesburg police chief Joseph Price called attention to the problem in October after several cases occurred in Loudoun, including one that required hospitalization. Price said he would encourage legislation to outlaw K2 and asked local convenience stores to stop carrying the product.
"Although the product is being marketed as incense, many of those purchasing it ... are doing so to achieve a 'legal high' since currently it is not a violation in the Commonwealth," Price said. "It is also obvious that most store proprietors know how it is being used."
The American Association of Poison Control Centers reported over 1,500 overdoses nationally resulting from use of K2 during the first nine months of 2010, and at least 352 emergency room visits -- for attempted suicides, extremely elevated heart rate and blood pressure, comas, seizures and anxiety attacks, and more -- have been linked to use of the drug, according to police.
Ten states have already adopted legislation banning the product and others are taking similar steps to address the problem, police said.
| November 29, 2010; 12:59 PM ET
Categories: Caitlin Gibson, General Assembly, General Assembly 2011, Loudoun County
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